The great Christmas lockdown debate: what’s the right thing to do?

Written by Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

Some think a Christmas lockdown is the only sensible course of action. Others, though, worry will it trigger a loneliness epidemic.

To Christmas or not to Christmas? That is the question on everyone’s minds right now and, at the moment, we have no definitive answer from the government on what to expect.

Earlier this week, The Sun reported that ministers are considering letting families choose a small number of households they can socialise indoors with for five days, starting on Christmas Eve.

If that happens, though, then the country would potentially have to endure 25 more days of restrictions – and, of course, there’s the worry that they may have spread Covid-19 to vulnerable family members.

Addressing these rumours, Boris Johnson’s spokesman told Sky News that he has a “clear intent to allow families to spend Christmas together”, but stressed it will “not be a normal” one.

And, as per The Daily Telegraph’s report, the current plan under consideration would mean no household mixing when national lockdown ends in England on 2 December, with all parts of the country under at least Tier 2 restrictions.

The possibility of spending Christmas with loved ones, though, has well and truly divided the nation.

“Sorry, but HOW can it be so important to share mince pies with 15 overheated family members after a year of financial and mental damage to millions, when it will almost certainly mean a huge rise in infections and more months of lockdown?” tweeted one person.

“Can we not just…miss it for ONE year?”

“It seems offensive to all those losing loved ones to the virus as we speak. Those who won’t make it to the vaccine,” added another.

One more Twitter user noted: “It’s not really about us. It’s about those who are vulnerable and the stressed, overworked NHS. Why are we putting them at enhanced risk so we can have a blowout? It’s the epitome of selfishness.”

And many, like myself, were quick to point out that both Diwali and this year’s Eid al-Adha “feast of sacrifice” celebrations were cancelled due to strict lockdown measures.

“If we are living in a truly diverse society then why was it not relaxed for Eid or Diwali?” asked one.

However, there arejust as many who have come forward to insist that Christmas absolutelyshould go ahead as normal – not just because we’ve been looking forward to it all year long, but because mental health issues and loneliness have the potential to be just as deadly as the coronavirus.

One countered: “Would you like to tell my father (widowed and had 3 strokes) and my mother in law (widowed) that they have to spend Christmas alone? There has to be some allowances.”

“You will end with a bigger mental health crisis than the one we already have,” agreed another.

One more issued a sobering reminder, writing: “Save Christmas! Some are not considering that if you don’t go ahead that for the terminally ill, they won’t get another one.”

And another insisted: “But we have a vaccine now! Why should we give up Christmas for no reason?”

I get it. Of course I do. But I can’t help wondering what the impact on mental health and loneliness might be if we are plunged into another 25-day lockdown in the shorter, darker days of January to make up for one big get together on the 25 December?

And, yes, there is talk of a vaccine. But, on 18 November, UK coronavirus cases grew by 19,609 while deaths rose by 529. The week before that, 22,950 new Covid cases were recorded in the UK along with 595 deaths. 

And the week before that (4 November)? 25,177 people tested positive for the bug while 492 died.

Some have noted that the numbers are decreasing, ever so slightly, on a week by week basis. It’s worth noting, though, that this is most likely due to the fact that we are all currently in lockdown at the moment.

Indeed, as public health expert Dr Gabriel Scally warned Good Morning Britain viewers this week, just five days of jollity could lead to the virus spreading.

“There is no point in having a very merry Christmas and then burying friends and relations in January and February,” he said.

Perhaps, then, the best thing to do is think up new ways to stay connected and promote that feeling of togetherness over Christmas – while remaining apart?

For example, we could:

  • Bundle up in woollies and meet for a walk in the park, if social distancing rules allow it.
  • Schedule in regular calls and video calls with loved ones – there’s lots of apps and options out there for different phones and devices. And don’t forget the regular landline for relatives who might not be digital.
  • Spend time together virtually, perhaps by watching films, playing board games, tackling a virtual escape room, or even having dinner together.
  • Organise (don’t groan) a very special festive quiz or murder mystery.
  • Phone loved ones for a chat before and after lunch.
  • Make drive-by drop-offs of Christmas snacks, if you live in the same town.
  • Set up a group chat on WhatsApp or Messenger and drop photos of our presents (and unusual festive setups) to our families from afar.
  • Make plans to do something really special for next Christmas.

“For many people living on their own, away from their family and/or in shared accommodation (which includes me and a lot of my friends) Christmas is the thing we’ve been waiting for and working towards,” says Stylist’s Hollie Richardson, who adds that she feels the government has not addressed the needs of those living alone.

“But, ultimately, this is a year where we all have to make sacrifices because people are literally losing their lives.”

Christmas is, remember, more a state of mind than anything else – and it can be found in all the places you find love. So, while we may not be able to gather round a table together, or open presents under the same tree, or give our nans a hug, what we can do is make new traditions. We can find new ways to show our loved ones that we care and are thinking of them. And we can all use this as an excuse to schedule in another big celebration when it’s safe to do so.

Because, as Stylist’s Lauren Geall notes: “Do we really want to sacrifice all the time we’ve spent inside over the last month for one day? Could we not crown 2020 the year of the ‘micro-Christmas’ and spend our days enjoying time with family over Zoom?

“It’s heartbreaking to think that Christmas won’t be the same as normal (I, for one, am a massive Christmas fan), but the reality we’re facing if we do allow the virus to spread is even more devastating.”

Hear, hear.

Images: Getty

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